Gathering Entries In A New Writer's Notebook

The first entry in a new writer's notebook is most important…
It sets a tone and can be viewed at a statement of intent. It might aim to say this notebook is my special place to gather special thoughts and ideas. 

This opening entry might be in the form of a letter to one’s self about what you intend to do as a writer in the days and weeks ahead. John, a fifth grade writer wrote the following poem as his initial entry.

It’s a Place

Why am I keeping this notebook?                                                                                                                          

Because it’s a place where I can keep track of my life                                                                                                                                                    
It’s a place where I can observe closely and where I can store little pieces of strength                                                                                                                
It’s a place where I can keep the elements of my life                                                                                

(Lightning, fire, ice, time and space)                                                                                                                      

And Writing (poetry, words, stories)                                                                

It’s a place where tales weave                                                                                                                                                      
All in all                                                                                                                                                                                                   
It’s a place for ME.

The first notebook entry might be prompted by an
artifact or a significant piece of ephemera. Remember, you set the tone and the expectation with the very first notebook entry.

I recall starting one of my notebooks with by pasting in a collection of business cards I had gathered. Each one had a story attached to it. It was essentially a topic list for further writing ideas. 

You could ask each student to collect a piece of ephemera, or a photograph to be on page one of their notebook and write from this place.  

Other possible starting points :

  • The story behind their first name or family name (significance, history).
  • Lists. They can provide the launching pad for a series of writing ideas.
  • Questions and wonderings.
  • A story you are itching to tell
  • A summer observation/event that is worth remembering forever.
  • Treasure Trove. Collect magazine pictures, words, headlines and have students select, connect, talk and write about one of the items they consider to be treasure.
  • Lifting a line from a text and use that line to launch a notebook entry. The line can be used anywhere within the writing piece, -beginning, middle, end.
  • Another way to begin your writer’s notebook might be with a statement of intent:

‘My writer’s notebook will be filled with my thinking. Really filled. I want my notebook to be brimming with collected thoughts and ideas. I will share my thinking in words and sometimes in sketches. I will share what is important to me, what I notice, what I hope for, what I hear, what I read and what I learn. All these things I will gather in my notebook. This is the place all my writing will begin, -stories, poems, reports and opinions. I will collect poems, stories, quotes, extracts and favourite words and phrases. I will post in photographs and pieces of ephemera to act as memory markers. I will fill my notebook with all those things that inspire me to write. Maps, drawing, words and images all together in this very special notebook. A notebook containing the treasure I never want to forget.’

There are many ways to begin. Writers make decisions. Choose a way that suits you and your students. Exposure to a range of possibilities will ensure every writer successfully leaves the launch pad in their own exciting way. 


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